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Effect of Fontan geometry on exercise haemodynamics and its potential implications


Objective Exercise intolerance afflicts Fontan patients with total cavopulmonary connections (TCPCs) causing a reduction in quality of life. Optimising TCPC design is hypothesised to have a beneficial effect on exercise capacity. This study investigates relationships between TCPC geometries and exercise haemodynamics and performance.

Methods This study included 47 patients who completed metabolic exercise stress test with cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR). Phase-contrast CMR images were acquired immediately following supine lower limb exercise. Both anatomies and exercise vessel flow rates at ventilatory anaerobic threshold (VAT) were extracted. The vascular modelling toolkits were used to analyse TCPC geometries. Computational simulations were performed to quantify TCPC indexed power loss (iPL) at VAT.

Results A highly significant inverse correlation was found between the TCPC diameter index, which factors in the narrowing of TCPC vessels, with iPL at VAT (r=−0.723, p<0.001) but positive correlations with exercise performance variables, including minute oxygen consumption (VO2) at VAT (r=0.373, p=0.01), VO2 at peak exercise (r=0.485, p=0.001) and work at VAT/weight (r=0.368, p=0.01). iPL at VAT was negatively correlated with VO2 at VAT (r=−0.337, p=0.02), VO2 at peak exercise (r=−0.394, p=0.007) and work at VAT/weight (r=−0.208, p=0.17).

Conclusions Eliminating vessel narrowing in TCPCs and reducing elevated iPL at VAT could enhance exercise tolerance for patients with TCPCs. These findings could help plan surgical or catheter-based strategies to improve patients’ exercise capacity.

  • congenital heart disease; Fontan procedure; exercise hemodynamics; computational fluid dynamics

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